Life is full of cliches- especially if you're single.

Take for instance the worn-out line used to warm up, charm and influence the weakest female (or male) - "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."Have you ever noticed that the men and women who use this line and others like it are usually the ones who three weeks later use the even more worn-out cliche - "Let's just be good friends!"

If you're single, over 21 and have ever been in love or even just hoped to be in love, you've probably heard this line. Some of us have heard it so much it has become a regular part of our dating conversation. After all, everyone can use another good friend, right?

One female acquaintance explained that once she hears "just friends," the relationship comes to a halt. "I feel a trust has been broken, that he is saying I don't really like you, but I don't know how to stop the relationship."

A male business associate indicated that being told he's just a good friend is one of the most ego damaging things he's experienced. "Why couldn't she just be up front with me. Even a small lie would have been better than saying `Let's be friends.' "

Both men and women who have felt the lasting effect of being turned into just a good friend must wonder what they have done to deserve that title. They ask themselves such questions as: Wasn't our relationship moving in the right direction? Didn't you trust me? Haven't we shared some special moments?

To help overcome the wounds of the just-a-good-friend syndrome and to seek out some meaning to the singles existence, the American Heritage Dictionary has helped define "just a good friend."

- Just (first definition, as an adverb) means: precisely; exactly

- A means: one

- Good means: genuine, real, substantial

- Friends means: those one knows, likes and trusts

So, "just a good friend" means: precisely or exactly one genuine, real, substantial person whom one knows, likes and trusts.

Now, to help analyze the deeper significance of this terrifying phrase, let us define the word girlfriend (boyfriend is the same, different sex).

The American Heritage says a girlfriend is: a close female friend of a boy or man, especially one seen on a romantic basis.

There it is, the "R" word, the one word that can change a friend to foe instantly - romance. Just for fun and further enlightenment, let's define romance.

The dictionary says romance (or romantic) means: a strong, usually short-lived, attachment or enthusiasm.

Aha! There it is folks, the answer. A girlfriend is a close female friend seen during a strong, usually short-lived attachment or enthusiasm. Compared to just a good friend, which is exactly one genuine, real person whom you know, like and trust.

The nagging question for searching singles is - which one would you marry? I dare say that, oddly enough, most would opt for the just-a-good-friend, given the definition above.

Now that we have clarified and defined being just a good friend, it may be advisable to help singles who want to have good friendships find ways to ensure that those relationships remain platonic and unconfused.

Here are suggestions from some former just good friends:

- Be honest and forthright from the beginning.

- Communicate, clarify and talk about your feelings when needed.

- Don't get physical.

- Don't give "romantic" gifts to just good friends.

- Act like just good friends.

- Good friends don't "date" - consider your activities with a good friend of the opposite sex to be similar to activities with friends of the same sex.

In conclusion, friends, remember that short-lived love may be a many-splendored thing, but a wonderful friendship can endure forever.